Category Archives: Results & Awards

CARS AAC Agility Trial: November 17-18, 2012

Two weekends ago, after our disastrous attempt at CKC Rally, Bear and I attended an agility trial hosted by Canine Agility Racers here in Brandon.

I entered this trial weeks ago but to be honest, I was not looking forward to it at all – mostly because I was exhausted. A trip to Calgary plus the fact that Sean has been immobile due to surgery has meant a lot of work, a lot of driving, as well as, cooking, cleaning and shoveling snow for 2 when I usually have help. Did I mention I teach two classes a week and attend two with Bear (1 in person, 1 online). This leaves very little time for sleep and I felt like a zombie – a tearful, tired zombie.

I did go, however, because it is a local trial (no travel expenses), Bear has been working very nicely in agility class (when we can make it), and I was hoping we would qualify in at least one snooker run and be able to finish our SGDC title.

On Saturday, we started the day with a nice jumpers run, very little barking, no sniffing and only one refusal – I was very pleased.

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She who is late on the serpentine shall lose her knees. Photo by Tom Will

Then things went down hill with both Advanced Standard runs. So bad in fact that at one point, I just decided to call it and leave the ring. I was way too frustrated to deal with the amount of barking that was coming my way. To be honest, most of our problems were handling (my fault) weave pole related.

At the end of the day was our Starters Snooker run. I decided to try the 7 point obstacle 4 times. We managed to do it 3 times and collect 34 points overall to and earning our Starters Games Dog of Canada Title! We earned the first leg of this title back in New Brunswick in 2007 so I was thrilled to finish it.

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Bear and I with Judge Dave Langen after earning our Starters Games Dog of Canada Title. Photo by Tom Will.

On Sunday, things went a little bit better. Our first run of the day was the Advanced Gamble. We collected enough points in the opening sequence and made it to the third obstacle in the gamble but Bear could not leave the tunnel alone. The distance was not too far – he just could not think through his insanity. The Advanced Standard run was equally bad with a lot of general stupidness around the weave poles.

By the time we got to the Advanced Snooker run, I was hopeful…there were weave poles in the closing sequence but if we managed to complete the 7 point obstacle 4 times, we would have enough points to qualify – we went for it. The 7 point obstacle was the teeter which Bear loves and the 2o2o contact we have slows him down enough to keep the insanity at bay.  We managed to keep it together enough to get to the teeter 4 times so I decided to try for the closing sequence but stop before we even got to the weaves to finish on a good note. This plan worked and we managed to qualify for a second time that weekend in our first Advanced Snooker run!

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She who is late on rear cross shall lose her dog. Photo by Tom Will

The last run of the weekend was an Advanced Jumpers run. The first half of the course was a bit tricky…with some tight crosses and call offs but I knew if we could get past the first half that the ending would be fine, it was basically a giant jump line…Bear’s favorite! Bear was very attentive, there was a bit of grumbling at my late crosses but no barking and we finished the jumpers run cleanly earning our 3rd qualifying ribbon if the weekend.

Looking back, I am actually kicking myself for not practicing the weave poles more. If we had managed to get every weave entry, we likely would have Q’d in at least 2 of the 3 Standard runs over the weekend.

My winter agility project is to make our weave entries as predictable and successful as our contacts – in the last 15 runs, Bear has only missed a contact once….If we can do that, then I actually think we might be able to get to the Masters Level before Bear turns 10!

A girl can always dream.

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Filed under Agility, Results & Awards, Trials and Tribulations, Triumphs and Sucess

Wheat City Kennel Club Rally Obedience Trial – November 16, 2012

I decided to enter Bear in one CKC rally obedience trial at the Excellent level last weekend. We had successfully been trialing in different venues (besides home) without food on the course and I thought we might be ready.

I was wrong.

There were 5 dogs in our class. I knew the dog ahead of us and the one behind us so the honor exercise wasn’t a big concern. We did our warm up – Bear seemed focused and ready to go.

We approached the ring as a friend came in to say “hi”, I quickly said “sorry we’re going in the ring” but it was too late, Bear had spotted her and as soon as we were in the ring, he was looking for her  – or something else (anything else!!) in that direction.

To say the run was a disaster would be kind. Suffice it to say after a ton of sniffing towards the honor dog (too close for my liking) I took Bear by the collar and asked to be excused.

In hind sight, I probably should have signed up for floor time Thursday night and I should have asked to be excused earlier on in our run.

Compared to other recent ‘failures’, when I left the building on Friday, I wasn’t overly upset, surprised or humiliated…I was…ambivalent…I wasn’t thinking up plans for training for future CKC trials, or going over the performance to see where I might have done things differently – I was just glad to be going home!

This ambivalence combined with the high cost of CKC trials has led me to the conclusion that maybe I need to forget about any more CKC trials with Bear. We have so many other fun things to do right now that I can’t be bothered to waste any more time , money and energy on something that leaves me feeling so…blah!

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Agility….Again

Think he’s having fun? I do!

Last weekend we went to our first agility trial in 3 years where I remembered a bunch of things I forgot, learned some new things and generally has a nice, hot, exhausting time! We have had less than 2 months practice to get ready for the trial so I did not have incredibly high expectations. Below is a rundown of our individual runs followed by the lessons learned.

The Rundown

I love A-Frame photos, they always seem to highlight just how powerful a dog’s hind end is.

Advanced Gamble – Our first run of the day started with plenty of barking (my bad handling). We completed enough obstacles to earn 24 points (we only needed 16) however I stepped over the line in the gamble because I assumed we incurred a refusal. In the end it was a non-qualifying run but I wasn’t really expecting miracles – we got the one starters gamble leg we needed in 2007 before the Starters Games title requirements changed and I think it might have been a fluke.

Starters Jumpers (1)

This was a gong show. the course looked easy however the inclusion of a straight tunnel (twice!!!) meant Bear picked up a ton of speed and I could not get to my planned crosses soon enough. We earned 2 refusals and a knocked bar for our efforts – all 100% my fault.

Starters Standard (1)

This was the event I was hoping to qualify in – we only needed one leg to complete our title. Bear completely missed the weave poles and I had to call him back – he did them properly the second time and then drifted again on a rear cross…otherwise the run was perfect until he jumped over the down contact on the A frame (3rd to last obstacle). I was relatively happy with that run since he was quiet and mostly attentive. right after we went to the pee pit and he had a #2 so clearly the sniffing was a hint that he had to go to potty and I am fortunate that he did not go on course because that makes things difficult for everyone else for the rest of the day.

Starters Jumpers (2)

This courser was somewhat easier in that it was a bit slower however, I misjudged the placement of one of the jumps and Bear blew by it. Had I been paying attention, I would have seen that Bear’s jumping path after the tire would take him way out to never land, thanks to his super long stride. We recovered, finished the course and I even managed to call him off of a tunnel which is a big fat deal for a dog that LOOOVES tunnels.

Starters Standard (2)

This was the final run of the day. Bear did NOT want to return to his crate after the jumpers run – he was tired and hot (temps were around 30 degrees Celsius). I hoped he would just be able to keep it together long enough to finish the course. The course started of with the A frame which we completed successfully and things went reasonably well until we got to the weaves. we wasted valuable seconds finishing those but managed to do it and finish off quite nicely. It wasn’t a pretty run (see it below) but we QUALIFIED!

This was the 3rd and final leg required for Bear’s Agility Dog of Canada Title.

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Bear and I with judge Brigitte Hunter and our pretty title ribbon.

Lessons Learned

Things I remembered:

  • I need to take Bear to potty about 2x more than I think I do!
  • Bear is REALLY fast – in some cases as fast as the Shelties and Border Collies out there
  • I am REALLY slow – at least compared to Bear
  • Bear works better when he’s quiet and when I am handling better.

Things I learned

  • We need to work on contact obstacles at a distance – we would likely have qualified if we were both more confident in that respect.
  • We need to work on rear crosses. By we, I mean me. In our jumpers runs I saw opportunities for rear crosses and chose front crosses instead because I am more comfortable with them but the reality is that in order to do a front cross I need to be AHEAD of Bear…fat chance!
  • We need to work on weave poles. Messing around with weaves cost us a lot of time (20 seconds in our last run!!) and now, in advance standard we need to make the weave entry on the first time or we cannot qualify. When you say that you would be willing to volunteer as course builder – that means you get assigned to building EVERY course that day.
  • Course building is actually not so bad, you actually work for about 15 minutes between courses and then can sit back and relax while teams are running.
  • Course building is also a great way to learn about how courses are built, what kinds of challenges judges like to (and are allowed to include in a certain course).

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June 2012 Rally Trial – Wowzers!

While I am busy at an Agility trial this weekend (and recovering from it), I figured I would give an update of the rally which took place here in Brandon last weekend.

To say the least, this trial was interesting.

This is the first time in a while that we’ve had a trial in Brandon where I was not judging and so it was almost relaxing to ‘only’ have to worry about being be trial secretary and running Bear.

For the past few summer and fall trials, we have opted to hold one day of the trial indoors an the second day outdoors. This set up tends to give competitors the best of both worlds and, in case of inclement weather, we are only forced to cope with one day outdoors.

Since the new year, Bear has been coming to work with me on a very regular basis. He does not get to play much since he can be cranky with other dogs  but when he does come he gets quiet time in the morning, comes out at lunch while the others are eating and then more down time in the afternoon. Before other dog get here and during lunch I try to do 5-10 minutes of work at a time. For the past few months I have been focusing on:

    • A moving down on a verbal cue only
    • Straight sits when we are facing walls
    • 180 pivots left with only one cue.
    • Ignoring the food bowls
    • Working on both sides

These may seem relatively minor – straight sits are only a 1-2 point deduction – but in the C stream, we need a score of 190 or higher to qualify and those points seem to disappear rapidly.

Since we were at home, I entered quite a few events every event we could figuring that if he started to peter out or lose focus we would either do FEO runs and/or just stop all together. I never seem to be able to predict how Bear will behave at a trial so I always have a ‘worst case scenario plan’.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Advanced C (1) – This was the first run of the day and it included the dreaded food bowls. Fortunately enough Bear only paused momentarily to sniff them on the first pass and I was able to recover him with a quick “hurry”. The rest of the run was flawless. Both the sniff and the extra cue cost me 2 points for a total deduction of 4 points and a score of 196. This was our 3rd leg towards the CARO Rally Bronze title.

Advanced C (2) – This run did not include food bowls! *Big Sigh* The course went very smoothly until bear’s nose got the better of him at one of the pivots. I used an extra command to get him to sit (2pts) and then we continued on flawlessly. We finished with a score of 198! Unfortunately we already have the maximum amount of Advanced legs needed for the CARO Bronze title so this leg will go towards our CARO Rally Silver title.

Excellent C – This course was a short one but had the wonderful challenge of having to run by the jump within a foot of the jump standard to be exact. For dogs that have been trained in agility and dogs that have done a lot of jump work, jumping is reinforcing and a jump within a foot is the very picture of temptation. We made it past the jump without taking it but we did lose a few points when Bear popped out of the weave poles (-4), when he moved slightly out of position during the back up 3 steps(-2) and when I gave him a second “down” cue during the moving down(-2). I did not need to give that extra cue and should have kept my mouth shut we did manage to qualify however with a score of 192, earning our fourth Bronze leg.

Excellent TeamWe got to do this run with a team that finished their advanced team title just an hour before I don’t think the dogs had worked together before and we were in slightly cramped quarters in the small rung but both dogs worked very nicely. We finished with a score of 197 earning our second Excellent Team leg.

Versatility C (1) – This was our very first time competing in the Versatility C class. Bear was on the ball until the weave through legs when we got confused. I’m not sure what happened but as I told him to “go through” he for some reason came around in front of me, went through my legs and then stood behind me with a strange look on his face. Figuring we had botched that side change up and knowing we could not retry stations in the C stream I continued on. The rest of the run was perfect with the exception of Bear getting a bit ahead of me during the slow ace at the end of the course. We did not qualify in this run but if we had managed to perform the through legs station correctly, we would have had a score of 198. All things considered I was pleased. we were both really confused but able to pull ourselves together and keep going.

Versatility C (2) – During this run, I was more consistent with my cues and we did the side changes perfectly. We did however lose  3 points for a crooked sit during a pivot – ironically this was a pivot out in the wide open, not one that was directly facing the wall. We finished with a score of 197 and earned our fifth and FINAL leg towards the CARO Rally Bronze title!

What a wonderful way to end the day!

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Bear and I with Judge Patty Rollheiser (L) and Marne Birch (R) after earning our CRB title and High Scoring Senior Dog in Trial.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

On Sunday, the trial moved outdoors. Having had a wonderful day on Saturday, I was not worried about Bear’s performance outdoors. We practiced a total of 2 times in that ring and Bear had been hit or miss – Birds, Squirrels and smells were distracting – I did not have high expectations.

Excellent C – Our First run of the day was quite nice until Bear took the tunnel instead of the jump right beside it. In hindsight I did tell him “OUT jump” and I think the tunnel looked more inviting than the broad jump even though it was out of his way. This disqualified us instantly but we kept going and, had he taken the tunnel, we would have finished with a score of 195 – Bummer!

Excellent Team – We chose to go second in this run and started of nicely until bear got so distracted sniffing that he actually walked the broad jump – Instant NQ which was too bad because our team partners performed well.

Excellent Team – This time we chose to go first, in the case that writing a whole minute was just too much for Bear. Apparently it wasn’t our day because we pointed out with more than 20 points worth of deductions – most of them ours.

At this point, I pulled Bear from the rest of the day’s runs. It was apparent that he was not going to work or rather that the rain, and smells of the bush were too much for him.

On a positive note he did perform a wonderful moving down – outside – in the WET(!!!) grass.

Weekend Lessons

The lessons I took from last weekend are that:

  • A little bit of work goes a long way: No NQ’s on moving downs or food bowls and very few crooked sits.
  • The largest factor in Bear’s performance is stress/distraction, not time or number of runs. In our home training environment he qualified in 5 out of 6 runs. I did not have a lot of time to do settle work and he rested both in the car and indoors in the building.
  • I need to do more practicing outdoors if I want to see improved scores out of doors.

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Rally is not always about the Q’s

The reason I fell in love with rally, and became a judge, is because rally is about having fun and working together with your dog. Teams of all ages and abilities are welcome to participate and corrections in any form are heavily penalized. I also love CARO rally in particular because the trial environments I have encountered have been more relaxed, more encouraging and less stressful than other venues I have competed in.

I have been judging since 2010 and have had the opportunity to watch some really great teams at work, however, because rally obedience is a sport complete with rules, point deductions, passing and failing, some of these teams have not qualified and more often than not, it breaks my heart.

Sometimes great runs are non qualifying because a team completely misses a station.

Sometimes the dog does exactly what he or she was asked to do but the handler asks for the wrong behavior.

Sometimes a dog is incredibly unfocused to start but is able to refocus and finish the course.

Sometimes a dog is struggling with his or her own fears and anxiety and the handler just decides to stop competing, take out a toy or cookie, and make sure their dog has a good time.

Sometimes a handler is working very hard to keep a dog “in the game” but for whatever reason, the dog just can’t do it.

During my judges briefings, I always try to tell competitors that it is unlikely that anything that happens in the ring will surprise me because Bear and I have not qualified many, many times for many, many reasons. I share this because I want them to know that I am aware of the time, effort and training that goes into preparing a dog for trials, how much courage it takes to perform in front of an audience and how much composure it takes to be happy and positive with your dog no matter what happens in the ring. I also share this because I want competitors to know that I have been where they are and I understand all of the stress, anxiety and emotions that crop up when things do not go as we had hoped.  But more than anything I share this because I want competitors, especially new ones, to understand that not qualifying does not mean that you have a bad dog or that you are a bad trainer, it just means that you had a bad run. The best thing to do about it is to learn what you can from the experience and use that knowledge to improve on the next run.

Unfortunately, aside from my judges briefings, time to seek people out to give them a quiet word of encouragement is limited and time to draw attention to great non-qualifying work is almost non-existent because it is a trial, not a class or a seminar: there are scorecards and ribbons to hand out, courses to set, questions to answer and trial records to sign.

After thinking about all of this for some time, I decided to start recognizing great work (qualifying or not) at a time when everyone is gathered and attentive – when it is time to hand out ribbons and scorecards. I give scorecards and ribbons to qualifiers and then, while everyone is present, I highlight the great work being done by dogs and their owners by giving out Judge’s Choice Awards. These awards are given to teams that I think exemplify team work, enthusiasm, or great work ethic, regardless of their score. I have also given them to teams and individuals that have made a drastic improvement throughout the trial or to handlers who remind me through their actions that rally is all about having fun with our dogs.

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